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The Surprising Element to Creating Trust

I have always assumed that keeping my word was the foundation of creating trust. I have always believed that doing what I said I would do would build trust with individuals, fellow team members, and throughout my organization. I have always thought that keeping my word would build a reputation for me as a reliable person who follows through on what I agreed to do. While these are important elements of building trust, the key element is understanding assumptions.

When left invisible, assumptions create barriers in relationships; in fact, the assumptions often hold the power in the relationship. However, when we bring them to the light by recognizing and naming them, they lose their power, thus dissolving barriers between us and others.

As we go about our day interacting with people in life and work, what we see and perceive is limited. As events or interactions occur, there are gaps where we need to fill in the blanks with our limited perception. We often do this by creating our own narrative of what happened. Brene Brown, researcher and storyteller calls this “the story I am telling myself.” For example, when someone shows up late for a meeting, what are they labeled? Why are they late? What is the story you start to make up in your head around their late arrival? Often, my first assumption is that they are being lazy, insensitive, and inconsiderate by being late. Of course, if I were to show up late for a meeting, I might think to myself, “It was just this one time. I am hardworking and there was an important matter to attend to BEFORE walking into that meeting.”

Let’s unpack this even further. I was working with a team recently in a volunteer role, and we were trying to get a new initiative moving within the organization. We had a meeting to talk about what we envisioned for the roll out of this initiative. There was excitement about what was shared, and input was gathered from everyone in the room. I sat there with great expectations of what my involvement would be. There were discussions about what each person brought to the table with their individual strengths and outside spheres of influence. I was excited when it became my turn to share my strengths. We ended our first meeting with interest soaring high and a brainstormed plan of all the ways we could each contribute.

But, in between our scheduled meetings, there were others who met apart from the rest of the group and began to run with the bulk of the vision. I was absent from those interactions and started to feel left out and that my input was not valued. I kept trying to come up with the ‘why’ of their exclusion. Don’t they know I have the expertise I can offer? Don’t they know that I have several contacts that could benefit them with the exact market they are trying to play in? I discovered out that the stories I was playing out in my head contributed to resisting the very people I was interacting with. I began to stop listening to them and valuing their work because the stories I made up about them were playing so loudly in my head. An interesting thing started to happen – I began feeling like I could not TRUST them. How could I ever work effectively with people I couldn’t trust?

Now, think about that…the foundation of trust was getting chiseled away and I was the one with the chisel. There was a breakdown of trust that undermined my entire involvement with the project. I found I was blaming them for my lack of involvement. In the book titled – Leadership and Self-Deception, the authors share that ‘my blame can keep inviting others to reinforce the image I have made of them.’ I was making up some very interesting images {stories} as they related to my fellow colleagues. This also impacted the results we could have achieved as a team and all the collaboration we could have experienced given our unique giftings.

As I reflect on this interaction, I have since learned several solutions that help build trust and reinforce trust with my actions.

Turn a story of assumptions into a conversation.
Take the assumptions and turn them into questions. This is where you get curious about the gaps.

  • Ask questions about the facts. Forex, “I noticed you had a meeting without me. Can you tell me more about that?”
  • Get curious about your own feelings and the story you told yourself. What did I feel when they met without me and why did that make me feel that way? A feelings wheel can help in this process: https://blog.calm.com/blog/the-feelings-wheel
  • Use this to process and create statements that remain in the fact realm: “When you met without me, I felt disrespected – like my opinion was not valued.” or “When you met without me, the story I told myself was that you didn’t value me.” Instead of “When you met without me, you disrespected me and didn’t value my opinion.”

Identify expectations.
Expectations are my wishes and hopes for this project or deliverable. I can start to ask myself, ‘How do I want to be involved? What might be the minimum of what I need to see altered, see changed, or see achieved? What if these are not met; what course might I take?” I have heard it said that ‘unmet expectations are pre-planned resentments.’ If I can identify these elements at the start of the project, I am better set up for success even if just success for my involvement.

Define Clear Roles and Timelines.
I realized that ambiguity was a ‘no man’s land’ where trust can break down. The more clarity, the more trust. I have since found out about the RACI model when approaching team projects in which roles and responsibilities can be clearly outlined. In brief, the acronym gets broken down in the following ways.

  • The R is for Responsible. This person is responsible for making decisions and/or getting the work done.
  • The A stands for Accountable. This person will make sure the task gets done; much like overseeing things.
  • The C stands for Consulted. This person will provide information useful for completing the task.
  • The I is for Informed. This person is kept up to date on the progress and/or the milestones within the project.

To learn more about this model, visit https://thedigitalprojectmanager.com/raci-chart-made-simple/

I now have confidence in these new ways to approach projects. I have since had the opportunity to walk through several follow-up discussions with the team and, yes, they were difficult. The project is moving forward, and my role is now clearly defined. I am providing more information [research] that can be utilized in seeing this dream come to fruition. Yes, I had envisioned that I would be more of a contributor. To be honest, that did take some time for me to reorient my own expectations and hopes around this defined role. Yet, I am in a much better place to take full responsibility for what I do contribute. Author Simon Sinek sums this up perfectly, We are not victims of our situation; we are the architects of it.


Author – Michelle Santaferraro


About InteraWorks

InteraWorks is a global learning company on a mission to elevate the human experience at work. Specializing in professional development and performance enablement, we offer top-rated learning programs based on four defined conditions that must exist for individuals, teams including Effective Edge, Best Year Yet, and the Essentials series. Our integrated learning framework and online tools generate immediate and sustainable breakthroughs in performance. Through decades of working at all levels in enterprise companies across many industries, we’ve built a reputation for helping people and organizations harness their focus, mindset, talent, and energy to produce results that matter most. 


We’ve defined four conditions that must exist for an individual, team, or organization to be effective within the arena of performance and development; Accountability, Focus, Alignment, and Integrity. We’ll continue to explore these and more in our blog and look forward to your engagement and interaction with us. Stay tuned as we engage the edges.